Flora & Folklore

Brambles are mysterious plants, ruled by the planet Venus and associated with the zodiac sign of Aries.

Written by our herbalist

November 29, 2021

This is the first in a series bringing you knowledge of local flora & the history that surrounds them...

The Common Blackberry (Rubus Fruticosus) or Dris or Sméra Dubha in Irish have been a staple for Irish foragers for millennia.

Brambles are mysterious plants, ruled by the planet Venus and associated with the zodiac sign of Aries.

Other than the obvious food sources, blackberries have long been used for dying cloth and weaving of both baskets and beehives. The roots of brambles make a lovely dark green dye, perfect for wool.

In old Irish Brehon Laws on trees and shrubs, the bramble was considered a bush of the woods and if anyone cleared a field of brambles could incur a fine of one dairt (one-year-old cow).

According to some blackberries should not be picked after Michaelmas (29 th September). If you regularly pick blackberries many are spoiled by the end of September so there are no surprises that one shouldn’t pick them after Michaelmas.

The young shoots use to be eaten as they are considered tender and sweet.
An arch of bramble with roots at either side is considered to be a cure-all, especially whooping cough, hernias and ruptures. This could be attributed to its astringent properties.

The leaves are still used topically for burns and scalds. In herbal medicine, we use the roots and the leaves. The bark of the root and leaves contain tannin, astringent properties and a good tonic. The root is more astringent than the leaves.

Brambles have also anti viral properties and are useful in the treatment of colds and flu. The boiled leaves mixed with lye make a fine soft black colour for dying the hair. Although I haven’t tried this mix to dye my hair.

Recipe for blackberry vinegar
1 kg of fresh blackberries
1 litre of cider vinegar or malt vinegar

Put the blackberries into a glass jar and cover the fruit with the vinegar and leave to sit for three days.

Strain through a sieve and leave them to drain thoroughly and don’t press them.

Leave to drain slowly for the day.

For every 500 mls of fluid add 250 mls of sugar. Put into a pan and boil gently for 5 minutes, remove any scum from the top. Set aside to cool and when cold bottle and label.
Dose: one teaspoon in a glass of water to help bring down a fever.

Grieve M 1992 A Modern Herbal J Cape Ltd
Mac Coitir N 2008 Irish Wild Plants. Collins press Cork

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